It’s been a hell of a year for Ellen DeGeneres showing her ass. The rich white lesbian decided to speak for all LGBTQA+ people when exonerating Kevin Hart for his homophobic jokes, which primarily targeted gay Black men. Then, she not only bro-ed down with homophobe and warmonger, former president George W. Bush, but also defended her chum(p) choice by poo-pooing politics in general. COOL COOL! Now, the former comedian turned dancing clown for the cozy middle class has some thoughts on Millennials. And naturally, they were sparked by the “OK Boomer” meme.
This is my favorite new thing… taking 80's and 90’s products and making millennials try to use them. Today’s experiment - a boombox, a typewriter, and a camera with film. pic.twitter.com/a308IFNggz— Ellen DeGeneres (@TheEllenShow) November 19, 2019
“OK boomer” is a criticism leveled at Baby Boomers who are out of touch with the plight of Millennials. It’s a joke that’s risen in response to the overwhelming amount of think pieces about how Millennials would totally be able to buy houses, have plenty of kids, and keep up American institutions like shopping malls, plastic straws, and paper napkins if only they wouldn’t buy so much avocado toast. But on Ellen, DeGeneres ignores the cultural context of this meme and skips right to making fun of Millennials who don’t understand things like rotary phones, boom boxes, and typewriters.
First off, I’m not sure how “they don’t understand obsolete tech” is such a burn. But beyond that pettiness, the women called up to participate in this mocking endeavor are not Millennials. The one in the first clip with the rotary phone is 17-years-old; the one in the second is 22. They’re both Generation Z. So, let’s say this once more for the Boomers, think piece editors, and Ellen writers: “Millennials” is not a catch-all term for “young people I want to get off my damn lawn!”
Millennials were born between 1981 and 1996, meaning the youngest Millennials are 23. The oldest are 38, and I’d wager they definitely have had contact with boom boxes if not typewriters and rotary phones. Hell, anyone who rides the New York subways system today knows what a boom box is because those artifacts still make obnoxious appearances on the reg.
Making matters more cringe-worthy, DeGeneres chose a young woman for both these November-shot segments. Because each segment is meant to relish in the ignorance of its subject, both play into the patriarchal stereotype that young women are stupid and worthy of ridicule. Then, beyond all of that, this bit’s been done before. And better.
On Late Night With Seth Meyers, the titular talk show host offers a recurring segment called “What Does Millennial Late Night Writer Karen Chee Know.” Check out this clip from last summer:
Beyond having an actual Millennial in the role of Millennial, Meyers’s version doesn’t make the young woman the butt of the joke. The whole bit isn’t centered on what Chee doesn’t know. The first part is her puzzling out pictures of Joey Lawrence and Milli Vanilli, but no one is pretending either is an essential element to understanding the world. Then the second part has the roles reversed with Meyers trying to identify pop culture tokens from Chee’s childhood. This allows both sides of this generation gap to laugh because the comedy comes from the gap in frames of reference, and not the generations themselves. Like “Jokes Seth Can’t Tell,” it’s a more inclusive brand of comedy that doesn’t punch down like DeGeneres’s ill-conceived copycat does. It allows everyone to join in the fun, even the oft-forgotten Generation X!
Beyond the tone, consider the status given these young women in each bit. In DeGeneres’s second segment, Ariana Whitmarsh is a fan of the beloved talk show host. She admits she’s nervous, seems starstruck, and then she’s presented with trivia questions while being mocked by a smiling star. In Meyers’s version, the Millennial is a work colleague, not a flummoxed fan. Chee’s name is in the segment’s title. Her role on the show is made clear from the jump. With both, she’s given a sense of authority, as opposed to novelty.
It’s little wonder Chee’s segment caught on.
As for Ellen, the tweet up top has gotten a ton of replies calling out the mistake in generation identification, so maybe DeGeneres will do a follow-up segment. Considering how she’s acquitted herself so far this year, I’d wager it won’t recognize the real issues with this supposedly silly bit.
Header Image Source: Syndicated